The Colorado Buffaloes had an opportunity to resurrect their bowl hopes against the Stanford Cardinal at Folsom Field in College Football Week 11. Despite the offense being held in check and the defense giving up another long touchdown pass to start the fourth quarter. They did just that, as Evan Price kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Buffaloes a much needed 16-13 victory. This result may have come as a surprise to people who may not follow the Buffaloes as closely. For Buffaloes fans, it was relieving to see the Buffaloes finally pull out a victory in a close home game after the heartbreaking losses to Arizona and USC earlier in 2019.
Three Phases Complement Each Other From the Onset
The Buffaloes did a good job playing complementary football across all three phases in the first quarter. The offense had not scored an opening-drive touchdown since College Football Week 4 against Arizona State. Mel Tucker took the aggressive approach and chose to receive the football. He did the same against Washington State when it went woefully bad for the Buffaloes, but the opposite would occur this time. Offensively, the Buffaloes looked like the more aggressive team. They were winning the line of scrimmage on their first drive with tough running by Alex Fontenot. Montez would score on a 13-yard scramble, and Tucker’s decision paid off greatly. Montez would become the second player in Colorado Buffaloes history to go over 10,000 total yards on the touchdown run.
Stanford was also able to run the ball on their opening possession. However, once they were knocking on the redzone, the defense tightened and was able to hold them to a field goal.
The special teams recovered a muffed punt after the Buffaloes stalled on their next offensive possession. Unfortunately, they were called for holding on the play, nullifying the fumble. However, the Buffaloes defense would force Stanford into a three-and-out. It finally seemed like the Buffaloes were excelling at playing complementary football.
A Big Mistake for Montez, but the Defense Gets Timely Turnover
On the next drive, the Buffaloes got to Stanford territory. Montez would make a big mistake on a first down. He saw his receiver open to his left, but Stanford senior safety J.J. Parsons picked him off. Fortunately for the Buffaloes, the defense stepped up and only allowed a field goal on the ensuing Stanford possession. The Buffaloes still had the 7-6 lead.
Stanford would get the ball back, and the defense got back to their calling card early in the season: a timely turnover. Safety Derrion Rakestraw would pick off Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello on a deep pass to give the ball back to the Buffaloes. They had 3:42 left to score before halftime. The offense would follow through, as Evan Price kicked a 34-yard field goal. As was the case with the last two home games against Arizona and USC, the Colorado Buffaloes entered the halftime locker room with the lead.
Third Quarter Uneventful, but Defense Falters to Start 4th
Stanford and Colorado were playing their game at the same time as what many in the media were pinning as the “Game of the Year” in College Football 2019. Fans may have had one eye on the Buffaloes while having another eye on how the LSU-Alabama contest was unfolding. With how boring the third quarter was, it would not have been to anyone’s surprise if watching Joe Burrow picking apart the Alabama defense was more entertaining even to die-hard fans of the Buffaloes or Cardinal.
The Buffaloes were able to shut Stanford down the whole game when they crossed the 50-yard line. Stanford had a chance to make it 10-9, but Ryan Sanborn missed the field goal try. The offense was unable to muster much offense on their two third-quarter possessions and did not do much of anything. They punted twice, and Stanford had the ball to start the fourth quarter trailing 10-6.
Colorado had gone a full three quarters without giving up a big play to the Cardinal. However, all Buffaloes fans’ worst fears were realized one minute into the fourth quarter. The defense forced Stanford into a 3rd-and-15 from their own 21-yard line. Unfortunately, they faltered as they let receiver Simi Fehoko pop open. He went through the entire CU secondary to give the Cardinal a 13-10 lead. The defense has given up so many big plays this season to lose games.
The Offense, Able to be Methodical, Does Enough to Win
The offense was able to be the defense’s best friend after the big play. They kept the ball for 12:31 in the fourth quarter. Moving the football methodically, the offensive line started winning the war in the trenches again. Alex Fontenot gained 36 yards on seven carries on the ensuing possession. The Buffaloes had a 3rd-and-2 from the Stanford six yard line. However, Montez missed a wide-open K.D. Nixon for a touchdown to take the lead. Despite being pressured, it was still a throw that a senior quarterback is expected to make. Instead of taking the lead, the Buffaloes had to settle for a field goal to tie the game at 13.
The defense did their job on the ensuing Stanford drive, forcing them into a three-and-out. After the offense held the ball for 6:31 on their last possession, this stop was huge. The Stanford defense was forced back onto the field. The Buffaloes got the ball back with six minutes to play. They had a win in front of them. After fans left Folsom Field disappointed the past three home games, it was time for them to experience the joy of winning.
The Buffaloes were able to methodically get into Stanford territory, but the Cardinal defense stood up and forced them into a 4th-and-1 at the Stanford 34-yard line. It was time for the Buffaloes to let their star player, Laviska Shenault, get the ball. They handed it to him on an inside sweep play, and he muscled his way for a five-yard gain. Stanford did not use any of their remaining timeouts, and the Buffaloes had a win right in front of them.
Evan Price would deliver on a 37-yard field goal, and the Buffaloes finally broke their five-game losing streak. The defense finally broke their 14-game streak of giving up 30+ points, and they did this emphatically. The Buffaloes needed to win one of these close in-conference home games. They finally got a sense of relief at home for the first time since beating Nebraska.
A Momentum Boost for the Buffaloes Heading Into Bye Week
The Buffaloes sit at 4-6 now, and they still have a chance at a bowl game. However, some may argue that it may take a prayer for them to make it. Winning against a name-brand school such as Stanford is a huge momentum boost for Mel Tucker. It improves team morale and is great for recruiting. Next week, the Buffaloes are on bye, but they will play Washington on November 23, which will be senior day. Steven Montez will have one more chance to build upon his legacy in front of the Folsom faithful.
Washington sits at 6-4 and also is on bye before the play the Buffaloes. Both teams will be well-rested. If any of the Buffaloes’ home games are any indication, fans should be ready for a tightly knit affair. It is up to the Buffaloes to build upon finally winning a close conference home game and continue to show they belong with the name brands of the Pac-12.